Tag Archives: The Dark Knight

What Batman Means to Me.

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of Batman, I’ve decided to write about my favorite hero of all time, The Caped Crusader.

"You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

One my fondest childhood nerd memories was when I went to see Tim Burton’s 1989 classic (and I legitimately mean that), Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. I was only six or seven at the time, but for me it was a life-changing experience. The moment when he was holding the purse-snatching thug over the side of the building and the thug frantically asks, “What are you?”, and Gotham’s Dark Knight replied in his fearsome, non-just-gargled-glass tone, “I’m Batman.” He then tossed the terrified scumbag back to the roof and leaped off into the shadows of the city. I had goosebumps when I first experienced that scene and have every time since then. That was the moment when I knew Batman was my superhero, the hero that would forever be the paramount of all heroes. None would ever compare to him and none have, save for The Doctor, who could ever only tie with him.

Just in case you need your memory jogged, this is the moment:

Growing up, I was a Batman fanatic. I had toys, I had t-shirts, I had comic books and anything else I could get my hands on. I was obsessed. I used to run around the yard or the playground pretending to be Batman. I would sit and watch reruns of the ’60s Batman television series with Adam West and Burt Ward. When I received an original Game Boy for Christmas one year, one of the first games I got was Batman: Return of the Joker. I almost wore out the cartridge playing from playing it so much. I lost count of how many times that I beat the Joker. I could not get enough of Batman.

He was the best kind of hero: incredibly intelligent and clever, strong, agile, trained in many styles of martial arts, and resourceful. He was rich, which when I was a kid, was freaking sweet. He was a detective, using his brains to solve crimes instead of running around beating the confessions out criminals. He had the best costume in comic books. And he didn’t kill, which I tend to disagree with every now and then, but it’s an admirable gesture. My favorite thing about him was that he was human. He wasn’t a super-powered alien or a robot or a god, nor was he given powers by some sort freak accident. He was just a regular guy using his brain and the gadgets he made to clean up the streets of Gotham.

Batman: The Animated Series [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Batman: The Animated Series [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Throughout the years, my admiration has never wavered, never faltered. Even with some less than desirable mishaps in the adaptations of the character (Batman & Robin), I’ve always stayed true. Thankfully, there have been more good than bad when it comes to Batman on the big and small screens.

For example, Batman: The Animated Series, which is widely regarded as the best adaptation of the Dark Knight ever to be created. I wholeheartedly agree. The superior writing, the phenomenal animation work by Bruce Timm, and the outstanding voice acting from Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) that will forever be ingrained into the memory banks of every fan of the show. If you haven’t watched every episode of that entire series at least once, you haven’t truly lived. I mean seriously…what have you been doing with your life?!

Here’s one of my favorite episode’s, Joker’s Favor:

Batman TAS – 1×22 – Joker’s Favor

Most, if not all, of the other animated version have been exceptionally entertaining but none so much as Batman: TAS. It’s quite difficult to live up to its perfection. The Batman, Batman Beyond, The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2, and pretty much any other animated version that came out were all done remarkably well, especially Batman Beyond. It was essentially a sequel to TAS, but its story took place in a future Gotham where Batman had become to old and broken to continue on. He had hung up his cape and cowl and chose to retire until a young man by the name of Terry McGinnis came along and took up the mantle. Once again, the series was blessed with excellent writers, stories, characters, and voice actors, which makes this series a close second to the greatness of TAS. Will Friedle (Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World) was a fantastic choice to voice Terry. Beyond is another series that needs to be viewed multiple times just because it’s that good. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, an animated movie continuation of the series, is a top notch choice for multiple viewings. For a children’s animated film, it was actually somewhat disturbing, but not in a bad way.

The movies were another story though. They started off really well and then descended on a downward spiral with each sequel. Tim Burton brought Batman to life in 1989 with the first of two films (Batman Returns being the second), starring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton’s Batman is my absolute favorite version of the character. To me, he was the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. He was dark and menacing, charming and aloof, heroic and fearless, all when needed to be. The films were dark in their tone, just as they should’ve been, and the villains were amazing: Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Danny DeVito as the Penguin created three of the best villains ever to grace the screen.

Then 1995 came along, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton didn’t want to continue doing the films, so Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer took over as director and star, respectively. Things changed rather quickly with Batman Forever. The scenery was dark but not as dreary, everything turned neon and bright, and the villains became a little more over the top. They introduced an older Robin, changed Harvey Dent from black to white, and cast Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Actually, Carrey’s version of the Riddler was one of my favorites. Yes it was a bit over the top, but if you pay close attention, it’s not hard to tell that it’s a homage to Frank Gorshin’s version from ’60s series. I don’t hate this film, I rather enjoy it.

Now as for 1997’s Batman & Robin, that’s a whole ‘nother story. I despise this poorly-written, over-acted, over-the-top, campy, cartoonish piece of trash with all of my being. George Clooney became Batman, Alicia Silverstone became Batgirl (and also Alfred’s niece, not the Commissioner’s daughter), Uma Thurman hammed it up as Poison Ivy, Bane became a mindless henchman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger took a huge dump on my favorite Batman villain, Mr. Freeze. HUGE DUMP. I have never been so appalled by a film in all my life, and it’s mostly because of his performance. It makes me sick just thinking about it.  This film is such a blemish on the film history of Batman that most fans, including myself, completely disregard it as part of the series. It makes Phantom Menace look like Citizen Kane.

Awful. Just awful. [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Awful. Just awful. [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Luckily, eight years later, Christopher Nolan came along and rebooted the films with Batman Begins. In doing so, he also restored my faith in cinema as well as humanity. This film essentially brought Batman out of the comic book and into the real world. Nolan gave the Batman mythos depth and grounded it in reality, making viewers feel as Batman was flesh and blood and not some cartoon character. Begins was the start of one the best film trilogies ever, followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Christian Bale did a remarkable job with the characters of Batman and Bruce Wayne, although his Batman voice did need a bit of work. He was able to capture the character in a way that rivaled what Keaton had done before. And with TDK, we were graced with the greatest interpretation of The Joker that we may ever see, thanks to the late Heath Ledger. Such a sadistic and homicidal, yet still hilarious, version that even Jack Nicholson’s version pales in comparison. And I will fight anyone who says differently (not really though). It was a sad day when Nolan declared that he would not be continuing with the series after the third film, after he had done such amazing things with it already. An even sadder day came when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be taking over as Batman, but that’s a rant for another time.

And let’s not forget about the games, mainly just the Arkham series, because pretty much every other Batman game has sucked. Except for Batman: Return of the Joker for the original Gameboy, of course. If you want to experience what it’s like to be Batman but don’t have billions of dollars to buy all the gear and don’t feel like getting the crap kicked out of you, then play the Arkham series. Well written, well designed, and they brought back Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill! Truly some of the best games ever made and worth every minute you’ll spend completely engrossed in them.

But I think I may have gotten off topic… What Batman means to me. For me, and I know this may sound corny, Batman has always been a hero. He’s a sign of hope in even the most grim of situations. A light in the darkness, if you will, even though he dwells in the darkness. He’s justice when there is none, courage in a city that is drowning in fear, strength even when the world breaks your back and leaves you for dead. As a kid, when I was afraid, pretending to be him or asking myself “What would Batman Do?” helped me to overcome a great deal of fear. Some might say there are other real heroes to look up to, but to me, he was real. He was the hero I needed in the worst of times. He was a mortal human who fought a great deal of injustice and super-powered villains and never faltered. He just kept fighting. He’d keep going if it killed him. He was and always will be a great protector. And in my opinion will always be a greater and more powerful hero than Superman ever could be. The fact that he could die at any moment, be killed by any foe he faces, and yet he continues fighting and protecting and making sure justice is served, without killing, is what makes him so incredible. Out of his greatest tragedy (the murder of his parents), he has gathered the courage and strength to become the greatest hero that Gotham, and the world, has ever seen. And because of that he has become the one of the greatest heroes many in the real world, including myself, have ever seen.

To me, Batman is courage, strength, hope, determination, intelligence, kindness, justice, and so many other wonderful things that have helped make me the person I am today. And I will continue to use what I have learned for the rest of my days. I will pass this knowledge on to my children and I will teach them about the greatness of Batman and how truly spectacular he is and what they can learn from him. He will forever be a part of who I am.

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Man of Steel 2: Batman, Superman, & the Who and What I Want to See

Over the past few weeks, after DC/WB’s announcement of the MOS sequel, I’ve been thinking about who I would like to see in the film (characters and cast) and what should happen.

I’ve been wondering a lot about how this story is going to go. Are Bats and Supes going to be friends or enemies or enemies then friends once they realize they have a common goal? Who will the villain or villains be? Where will it take place? Metropolis or Gotham City or both? And this film is supposed to be a lead-in to the Justice League film, so will there be any guest appearances or clever references to other DC characters or places in the DC Universe?  There has also been talks of crossing the DC television universe into the cinematic universe, so is there a chance of “The Hood” making an appearance?

The World's Finest playing nice? (image source: WB & DC)

The World’s Finest playing nice? (image source: WB & DC)

First, for the story, I think they should do a combination of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and the animated feature The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest. The Joker (or The Riddler) shows up in Metropolis wreaking havoc, teams up with Lex Luthor for some sinister plot, and Superman has to ask Batman for help since he’s dealt with The Joker before and somewhat knows how he works. When Supes shows up in Gotham, Batman isn’t pleased after seeing the destruction he caused in Metropolis some time back, so at first they’re at odds. There’s a big epic fight but then they realize that they should be working together to thwart a greater threat, so they team up. Which means the film will spend a small amount of time in Gotham but will mostly take place in Metropolis.

Obviously, that means the villains of the film will be Lex Luthor and The Joker, the heroes of course being Batman and Superman. Recasting the Joker after Heath Ledger’s phenomenal performance in The Dark Knight will be difficult and Lex Luthor is never an easy task. There’s also the highly-likely chance that Batman/Bruce Wayne will be recast. However, I thought I’d take a crack at it.

1 – All recurring characters from Man of Steel should be played by the same actors because that was perfect casting.

A perfect choice, I think. (image created by Javier de Mairena)

A perfect choice, I think. (image created by Javier de Mairena)

2 – Batman/Bruce Wayne: Josh Brolin. He’s an incredible actor with great range, he can handle the physicality of the role, and he has the look. Strong jawline, gruff-looking, older, that’s what WB is looking for with this recast. Now I would love to have Christian Bale back, but on the chance that he doesn’t come back, Brolin is my top choice to put on the cowl.

3 – Lex Luthor: Billy Zane. I know many people don’t think much of Mr. Zane, but I find him to be an exceptional actor. He can play smart and sophisticated, as well as cold, calculated, and maniacal. Not to mention, he can pull off the bald look nicely.

4.1 – The Joker: Adrian Brody, Crispin Glover, Damian Lewis, or Robert Carlyle. One of these four actors would make a superb Joker. It’d be difficult for them to top Ledger’s performance but I’m positive they would give it their best, knowing that they have big shoes to fill. Honestly, Crispin Glover has always been a top choice for me but I believe Damian Lewis might actually be a better choice.

Tennant's Riddler.

Tennant’s Riddler.

4.2 – The Riddler: David Tennant or Matthew Gray Gubler. I’m partial to Tennant because he’s my favorite Doctor, a brilliant actor, and can play the conniving genius quite well. Gubler is also an incredible actor and would do well in the part but Tennant is my first choice.

5 – Commissioner Jim Gordon: Gary Oldman. If they bring Gordon into the film, there is no other actor that should play him than Oldman.

As for crossovers and references, I don’t think any crossovers should take place other than Bats and Supes, of course. It would be nice to see Stephen Amell make an appearance as Oliver Queen at least, but not “The Hood” (of course by the time this film is being made, they may actually be referring to him as “Arrow” or “Green Arrow” though). But WB could get by with just making references to other heroes and their respective cities without actually including them in the film. They don’t wanna blunder and pull a Spiderman 3 move and have too many characters in one film. Just stick with the two heavy-hitters and their main arches and don’t overdo it. I’d also like to make a point that Robin should not be involved in this film at all, neither the comic book character or Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character from The Dark Knight Rises.

The way I see it, this film could be the perfect stepping stone for DC/WB to lead them into the Justice League film and helping them to making the DC Cinematic Universe as successful as Marvel’s has become. On the other hand, this film could be a complete disaster and be a huge setback for DC/WB. Either way, I’m willing to give it a chance and see what happens.

Are you? What are your thoughts and predictions for Man of Steel 2?

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Iron Man 3: Marvel’s Answer to The Dark Knight Rises?

I’m sure by now that all of nerdom has seen the newest trailer for Iron Man 3. (If not, shame on you, and it’s at the bottom of this article.)

Kingsley's Mandarin (image source: Marvel)

Kingsley’s Mandarin (image source: Marvel)

Anyway, the trailer was pretty epic, and it made me even more excited to see it. It also made me a little more confident that Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin won’t be a caricature of the villain he should be. He feels like he’s going to be a very menacing nemesis. I was worried when they cast Kingsley due to his somewhat less than favorable performances in BloodRayne, The Love Guru, and The Dictator. I was starting to lose faith in him as a quality actor, but I just kept reminding myself of how sinister he was in Sexy Beast, which if you haven’t seen, you should really check it out. From the looks of the Iron Man 3 trailer, he’s going to be phenomenal.

One concern I have after seeing this trailer is whether Marvel is trying to make this into their version of The Dark Knight Rises or if that’s just how things happen to turn out. I mean, the premise is the same – billionaire hero meets a new foe, foe turns out to be his greatest threat, foe destroys his entire world and strips him of everything, hero finds strength and rises up to fight back and defeat foe. Kinda makes you wonder if Marvel is taking notes from DC on this one. After the disappointment some people felt after Iron Man 2, it might be a good idea.

RDJ as Tony Stark/Iron Man (image source: nme.com)

RDJ as Tony Stark/Iron Man (image source: nme.com)

I want this film to be great, I don’t want it to turn into Spiderman 3. This is my biggest concern – overkill. The numerous Iron Man suits that will be appearing in the film make me wonder if it might. They’ve got the Patriot Armor (War Machine with a new paint job), Tony’s new armor (Mark number whatever it is now), the Hulkbuster armor, and then all the drones. It seems to be a bit much. If they throw in Fin Fang Foom, I might walk out of the theater. Learn from Sam Raimi and Brett Ratner, don’t try to do too much. Overkill is called that for a reason.

If Marvel can manage to make this film the grand opus that it looks to be, this could be their greatest film to date. I don’t think it could outdo The Dark Knight but it could definitely one-up TDKR. If they’re not careful though, they could end up with another X-Men: The Last Stand.

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Dear Heath Ledger…You Are Missed.

January 22nd of this year marked the five year anniversary of the death of Heath Ledger. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. It feels like it was just yesterday the news was breaking on Ledger’s body being found in the SoHo apartment of Mary-Kate Olsen, dead of an apparent overdose. Autopsies would later discover that it was an accidental overdose from the misuse of multiple prescription drugs. It’s the way many Hollywood stars have gone out, but it was definitely not the way many fans had expected him to die. Heath was one of the actors that were expected to live many years a grow into a respected actor and Hollywood legend, much like Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, he’s become one of the Tinseltown tragedies, much like River Pheonix. Gone too soon, just as his star was on the rise.

Rest in Peace, Heath.

Rest in Peace, Heath.

I’m sure most people’s first experience with Heath Ledger was from his performance in 10 Things I Hate About You, where he played the high school rebel trying to “tame the high school shrew” so another guy could date her sister. From there, he wowed us in The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, and the modern-day/medieval mashup A Knight’s Tale. After that, he starred in a few less than successful but still quite wonderful films; The Four Feathers, The Order, Ned Kelly, and Casanova.

Next, he co-starred in The Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon. The film, directed by Terry Gilliam, is one of my absolute favorites. It’s the not-so-true story of Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, a couple of con artists posing as witch hunters who find themselves in deep trouble when they must hunt down and kill a real witch for a French general or be killed themselves. It’s a quirky and eccentric film combining elements and characters from all the Grimm Fairy Tales into a story that only Terry Gilliam can tell. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Following that, he made Lords of Dogtown, where he played Skip Engblom, one of the creators of legendary skateboarding team, the Z-Boys.

His next film, Brokeback Mountain, brought a bit of controversy for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, a cowboy turned gay cowboy. The film drew much critical and box office success and earned Heath Ledger, as well as his co-star Jake Gyllenhaal, some much due acclaim (and I’m sure some good natured ribbing).

He followed up the success of Brokeback with a couple indie films, Candy and I’m Not There. In I’m Not There, he portrayed a persona of Bob Dylan during a period in his life. He shared the screen with five other actors to tell six different stories in Dylan’s life.

09 heath_ledger_as_joker_wallpaper_-_1280x1024

The Clown Prince of Crime.

And then there was The Dark Knight. One of the greatest comic movies ever made, if not the greatest, and it was in part because of Ledger’s performance as The Joker. No other actor has captured the character quite like Ledger did. He lost himself in the character to the point where you didn’t even recognize him. You didn’t see Ledger, you saw The Joker. This was the greatest performance of what would be a very short career that should have been a jumping-off point for a long and fruitful career. And it was Ledger’s loss of himself in the character that may have lead to his untimely demise, but that’s neither here nor there.

This role would usher Ledger into the pantheon of legendary actors and make it very difficult for any other actor to ever portray The Joker ever again. It also made it very difficult for Christopher Nolan to continue The Joker story line in his Dark Knight Trilogy which saddened many die-hard Batman fans, including myself.

His final performance was in another Terry Gilliam film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, where he portrayed a conman on the run for embezzling money through a charity. He hides out with a small troupe of traveling performers whose leader just happens to be immortal. The film, also one of my favorites, was more surreal and trippy than The Brothers Grimm and just as successful; I mean it’s more of a cult classic than a box office success. But even without the commercial success, it and The Dark Knight were excellent performances for Ledger to end his career. His performance as The Joker did win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously.

He was a star that burned out too soon. An incredible actor, father, and all-around wonderful personality that was taken from the world all too soon, leaving a void that will never be filled by another actor. In a sea of talentless hacks, it seems to be the talented ones that seem to be the first that sink when they should be soaring high above the waves, like a proud seagull or something. I’m not all that good with sentimental analogies.

Heath Ledger…You will always be missed.

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DC Comics Reviews – Aquaman Focus

Welcome to my first comic review. Here is how it’s  going to work. Each week I will read the comics that I get and rate each one on a scale of 1-5, then pick one to review in depth. Most times the comic I will review will be what I think is best that week, other times it will be the worst. Additionally, any comic that gets a rating of 4/5 should be considered on par. Ratings of 5/5 will be given to books that I think are going above and beyond the expected story. If anybody disagrees with my ratings, I am open for discussion at most times. I am always willing to voice my opinions and debate. Also, you may notice that I concentrate on DC Comics.

For this first article, I will rate all of the issues 1’s of “The New 52” that I am currently getting. Since both issues 1 and 2 are out for all my titles the next article will rate number 2’s. After that it will be a weekly thing with only a few issues on each list. For now though I’ve got a lot of ground to cover!

This ain't your daddy's Aquaman. Image courtesy Toledo Free Press

“Green Lantern”- 3/5
“Green Lantern Corps” – 4/5
“Green Lantern: The New Guardians”- 4/5
“Red Lantern”- 3/5
“Batman”-4/5
“Batman And Robin”-5/5
“Batman: The Dark Knight”- 3/5
“Detective Comics”- 3/5
“Superman”- 4/5
“Action Comics”-5/5
“Wonder Woman”- 4/5
“The Flash”- 4/5
“Aquaman”- 5/5
“Justice League”- 5/5
“Teen Titans”-4/5
“Nightwing”- 4/5
“Red Hood And The Outlaws”- 4/5
“Suicide Squad”-5/5

As you can see a few issues earned a perfect score. When “The New 52” came out I had no idea what to expect, but I went in with an open mind.

The one that exceeded all of my hopes was Aquaman. Maybe being written by Geoff Johns has this effects on superheroes who aren’t as popular.

Years ago, I was one of the masses that considered Aquaman to be a useless superhero, all he could do was swim well and talk to fish. I hadn’t really read that much Aquaman, but after reading this first issue, it made me realize that I was missing out on one of the better stories in the DC universe.

It’s people like me that Geoff Johns was obviously trying to prove wrong in this issue. The first half of the book shows Aquaman interacting with the world and the world looking on in confusion. He stops an armored car robbery, kicks the crap out of the robbers and gets shot all in the first few pages. The whole time he has to listen to people’s misconceptions about him. They ask him if he talks to fish, and wonder why he is so far away from the water. Basically think of a group of people that only know about Aquaman from watching “Super Friends.”  It’s almost as they expect him to come riding in on a giant seahorse. There is even a guy that asks Aquaman while he is sitting in a restaurant, “How’s it feel to be nobody’s favorite superhero?” To which Aquaman quietly picks up his trident and leaves. And all throughout the book you see these creatures that look like humanoid angler fish rising up from what they call the “Trench.” I don’t know about you but those kind of fish with the huge eyes and uneven teeth creep me out to no end.

And I love it; this looks like the making of a horror/action arc that will hopefully introduce a new group of enemies to DC. It’s almost if Geoff Johns was using this first issue to dispel all of the stereotypes that have surrounded Aquaman for the last 30 years or so. For that he has my thanks.

Aquaman shows his worth. Image courtesy Comic books, Movies, Comic Book Movies

I think it is good for DC to try to promote what we would consider their “B List” heroes. For too long the Dark Knight and the Big Blue Boyscout have had center stage. Green Lantern had his revival and so has The Flashl it’s about time that we start to focus on heroes that have never been offered a movie deal. Get Aquaman’s name out there, give him a crossover series like “Blackest Night”.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m sick of Batman. Maybe I’m still resentful that the “Green Lantern” live action movie didn’t do that well. All I know that it’s refreshing to see a hero take his criticism in stride and still go on to save the day. Every person reading this article should go out and buy “Aquaman” number 1. It only costs $2.99 (thank you DC). I’m just saying give the issue a chance, and you will be surprised at how much you enjoy a guy in a fish scale shirt and green pants flipping an armored car like it was a tinker toy.

Disagree? Agree? Sound off in the comments. Or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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